We shopped at Home Depot and Ace Hardware to see which was a better home-improvement store, and the winner was clear

Business Insider/Jessica TylerHome Depot offered a lot more than Ace Hardware did.

  • Home Depot and Ace Hardware, two of the biggest home-improvement stores in the United States, offer a similar product selection and help with home-improvement projects.
  • Though the stores sell many of the same products,Home Depot‘s setup appears to be geared more toward professionals – like contractors and interior designers – than Ace Hardware’s.
  • Home Depot reported on Tuesday that same-store sales were up 8% in its most recent fiscal quarter, and Ace Hardware reported in May that first-quarter sales were up 2.2%.
  • We visited locations of both retailers and found that Home Depot had significantly more to offer and was nicer to shop at than Ace Hardware.

Home Depot and Ace Hardware compete to be the go-to store for all things home improvement.

They stock everything you might need to fix up your home, including kitchen and bath fixtures, screws and bolts, paint, and tools. Both stores offer in-store pickup and do-it-yourself tips.

Home Depot has 2,284 stores in North America, while Ace Hardware has 4,418 stores, most of which are independently owned and operated. However, Home Depot stores are typically much larger than Ace Hardware stores. When visiting outposts of both retailers, we noticed that Home Depot felt like a massive warehouse, whereas Ace Hardware felt more like a local hardware store without the flashy showrooms and massive promotions that Home Depot had.

Both retailers have performed well as of late. Home Depot reported on Tuesday that same-store sales were up 8% in its most recent fiscal quarter, and Ace Hardware reported in May that first-quarter sales were up 2.2%.

The target market is another notable difference between the two stores. Home Depot tends to appeal more to professionals – like contractors, interior designers, and plumbers – while Ace Hardware welcomes a more do-it-yourself crowd.

In addition, Home Depot appears to be the store of choice for millennials. In a Bank of America survey of 1,000 millennials, reported by US News, 64% said Home Depot was their top choice for home-improvement shopping.

Here are some of the biggest differences we spotted at a Home Depot store and an Ace Hardware store in New York City:


I visited an Ace Hardware store in the East Village.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store was small and carried a lot of household items and convenience-store products like hand soap and toys. It was a pretty random selection towards the front of the store.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The store had a ton to offer in terms of tools, and it felt more like a local shop than a massive chain store. Everything was clearly labelled in this part of the store, and most products cost under $US20.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It was a bit dizzying to walk through the narrow aisles stacked floor to ceiling with tools. There was a ton to choose from.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The rest of what was on the first floor was pretty random. There were keys …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… lumber and cleaning supplies …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and an assortment of other random products. While there was a lot there, it was very cluttered, and it could be hard to find a specific product.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

One aisle was completely empty.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Another aisle, which carried small products like screws, nuts, and bolts, had signs taped to the floor, advising customers to write down the quantity and prices of the items they were buying. They were very easy to miss.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The paint aisles were a bit of a mess as well. One of the shelves seemed like it was about to topple over, and paint cans were everywhere.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The rest of the upper level had more general household products like Command hooks and coat racks. It also had a big selection of kitchen and bath products, like pots and pans, soap dispensers, and shower caddies. Most fixtures cost less than $US20.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

After making my way through the upper level of the store, I headed downstairs.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

What I saw on the lower level was underwhelming.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There was a sign stating that the store was being rearranged, which explains some of the mess …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… but the entire lower level was still unorganized and poorly labelled.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even though the store had a lot of products to offer at low prices, it was very cluttered and disorganized. There isn’t a set policy for price matching with competitors at Ace Hardware. Most Ace stores are independently owned and operated.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Ace Hardware had a sign advertising assistance for local businesses. Its shipping and return policies are not advertised anywhere in stores, but it offers next-day delivery, in-store pickup, and returns with a receipt for up to 30 days.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The Home Depot I visited was in the Flatiron District.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It felt more like a warehouse than Ace Hardware did, but it was brighter, cleaner, and immediately had more to offer than its competitor. Household items were to the left of the entrance, similar to Ace Hardware, and a flooring department — something that Ace Hardware did not have — was to the right.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The selection was impressive. Home Depot had a massive selection of all types of flooring in a variety of styles and patterns.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were tons of fixtures for kitchen and bath, and even though there was a much bigger variety than at Ace, it was more expensive.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

It also had lighting …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… kitchen and bath showrooms …

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… and a gardening department, all of which Ace Hardware did not have.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

The stores had a similar selection of craft supplies, paint chips, and other smaller products.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Home Depot had a comparable selection of small products like screws, nuts, and bolts. While shoppers didn’t have to worry about writing down the prices and quantities like at Ace, nothing at Home Depot was labelled, so you’d have to know what you’re looking for.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

That said, there were plenty of services for non-professionals, such as workshops where customers can learn how to do things like stain a patio. Ace doesn’t offer such services in store, but a section of its website is devoted to home-improvement help.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

There were price-check scanners available throughout the store. For most items, Home Depot was more expensive. However, Home Depot has a price-match policy that guarantees it will beat competitors’ prices by 10%.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

This store offers same-day delivery anywhere in Manhattan, starting at $US21. Other Home Depot locations also do this, with prices varying based on the order size. Ace Hardware did not have something similar.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Overall, the store felt geared towards professionals, but it seemed to have everything you need to complete a home-improvement project. Design consultations, price matching, and a lenient return policy add to the appeal.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Home Depot was the clear winner between the two stores. It was much more organised, offered a greater variety of products, and had more shipping options and lenient return policies.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.